Linking Participation and Economic Advancement

IDS will draw upon and expand its rich experience at the forefront of thinking about participation in development, and our emerging work at the intersection of participation and markets, to co-create with the Economic Advancement Program (EAP) at the Open Society Foundations (OSF) a deeper understanding of participation in economic advancement in general, as well as how EAP can bring participatory approaches into its own practice.

We will do this through two intersecting workstreams (WS1 and WS2), as follows:

WS1 - Building an evidence base for participation in economic advancement: Through mapping and co-inquiry with EAP and its partners and others in this field, we will identify existing initiatives and experiences of how meaningful participation and engagement of economically disenfranchised people can occur - and challenges be overcome - in areas such as economic investment, economic policy making, creation of economic alternatives, and the transformation of economic systems that perpetuate vulnerability.

WS2 - Putting ideas into practice: effective participation in grant making processes: Starting with mapping of existing practices, and through co-inquiry with OSF and partners, we will support EAP to build knowledge and skills to put into practice its commitment to participation and engagement of beneficiaries in its own programming through the stages of diagnosis and program design, implementation, and monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL).


IDS and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) are working to identify exciting examples of grassroots participation in the economic arena (economic policy-making, activism in this space, alternative business models).  The key to the research is not only about understanding economic alternatives, but those that have a strong participatory element. In particular, we want to understand participation in three areas:

  • What is meaningful participation of grassroots and marginalised groups in economic policy-making?  What might it look like?
  • How do marginalised people engage in investment processes that determine the allocation of resources, whether private or public, which affect their lives?
  • What does it mean to support marginalised people to build their own economic alternatives? 

In the past months we have been collecting well-known cases to understand how meaningful participation happens. We are now seeking support to identify innovative examples in less familiar contexts. Can you help us? Are you aware of marginalised communities participating in economic decision-making processes? Or would you recommend colleagues who might?

We are calling on practitioners and other experts to contribute to the uncovering of examples and surfacing new learning. The overall aim is to shed light on these interventions and to learn from them, helping to frame future interventions.


IDS would like to receive your cases/examples – please email us (below) or share an example at:

Here’s why you should be participating in this process:

  • It supports research, practice, grant?making and investment towards economies that promote social justice
  • It’s an opportunity to contribute to a shared understanding of the linkages between participation and the economic arena – with examples that will be publicised through IDS and linked to OSF
  • It is a chance to engage with colleagues with shared interests and to keep in touch regarding the outcomes of the project.


The full Open Call, including more in-depth information about project concepts and examples already identified, is available to download

Or contact:

Jodie Thorpe, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies -
Silvia Emili, Research Officer, Institute of Development Studies -

Key contacts

John Gaventa 2017


More details
Photo of Jodie Thorpe, Globalisation research fellow

T: +44 (0)1273 915732


More details
Marina Apgar photo

T: +44 (0)1273 915778


More details
Photo of Philip Mader, Research Fellow, Business, Markets and the State

T: +44 (0)1273 915646


More details
This is the staff photo of Silvia Emili.


More details
Project Dates:
June 2017 - December 2018
Project Status:
Total project value:
$ 310,008
Open Society Foundation
Research Themes / Programmes:
Economy and Finance
Participatory methodologies